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Eco Friendly Gift ideas for Sustainable Travel Lovers

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It wasn’t that long ago that I’d get strange looks when I whipped my Keep Cup out of my bag when it was time for a cup of tea on a plane or train.

Thankfully in recent years more people have been embracing small changes that will make a big difference when enough of us make the switch. Which means it’s more likely than ever that you have a sustainable travel lover in your life.

When it comes to eco friendly gifts for travel lovers, there are some great options to choose from. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Travel cutlery and straws

When I see someone say no to plastic cutlery and whip out their own portable set it gives me a little lift. It’s so lovely to see people showing that they care and with so many great cutlery sets out there these days, they can also look good doing it.

I’ve used a few travel cutlery sets over the years and my new favourite is this one from Jungle Culture.

Apart from looking good and being nice and strong to use, I love the story behind them. At Jungle Culture they work with small farms, craftspeople, workshops and ethical factories to produce a great range of plastic alternatives.

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They visit each farm personally to ensure that their high ethical standards are upheld, and if they can’t get there for any reason they certify their partner factories with amfori to ensure that worker rights and equality are upheld.

And their site has a ‘meet the maker’ section where you can find out more about the people who created their products as well as the farms and workshops they come from.

Their organic bamboo cutlery sets are handmade in Vietnam by local artisans at their crafts workshop. Each eco friendly set comes complete with a serrated bamboo knife, sturdy bamboo fork and tablespoon as well as a bamboo straw and coconut fibre straw cleaning brush. All wrapped up in a natural jute bag with five colour options. Or if you prefer darker cutlery, they also have a dark wood option.

And their reusable bamboo straws are harvested at a small, family-run farm in rural Vietnam before they’re individually hand crafted. The whole process is safe, non-toxic and completely organic, and the straws are then popped into hand sewn natural jute ‘jungle pouches’ that have been coloured with eco friendly vegetable dyes.

Jungle Culture are part of 1% for the planet, the global network of businesses, people and nonprofits that are that are helping to address our urgent environmental issues.

And they can also make customized bamboo cutlery sets for events, festivals and weddings so that your guests can not only avoid using plastic but have an eco-friendly memento too.

A Collapsible Bowl

When it comes to eating takeaway on the road often we may have our own utensils but still find ourselves eating out of a plastic container.

One way to get around that one is to travel with a collapsible bowl like one of these that you can wash it out and then flatten it before putting back in your bag.

Read: How to tell if your hotel room is clean

While most searches for collapsible bowls will show results for dogs, more humans are starting to use them too so they’re joining in the eco friendly gifts love. And hey, if the dog’s one looks better and is food safe, we won’t tell anyone.

The Scrubba

This Aussie invention is one of those wonderful things that happens when someone figures out the answer to a problem and a whole lot of other people see just how clever it is and hop on board to crowd fund it.

The Scrubba wash bag came about when Ash Newland was off to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with a friend and wondered how they were going to wash their clothes. Ash got to thinking about whether they could create a waterproof sealable bag with a washboard inside, and decided the answer was yes.

After seeing just how well his new invention worked when they tried it on the trip, Ash ended up quitting his job as a patent attorney and focusing on getting the Scrubba out into the world. And after it got a huge response with pre-orders on IndieGoGo the Scrubba was well and truly on its way.

While it was originally created with back packers in mind, my Scrubba washbag is more likely to be found getting to work in hotel bathrooms.  Sure, a bit of soap in the bathroom sink can work, but not as well as this baby.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that hotels usually do separate loads of laundry for every guest, so unless you have a full load for them to do The Scrubba is a greener, as well as more frugal, way to go.

Go Lightly by Nina Karnikowski

When travel writer Nina Karnikowski was offered a once-in-a-lifetime trip around Africa on a private jet she did what few would do. She told her editor that she was going to pass on the chance to spend 19 days visiting gorillas in Rwanda, exploring Ethiopia’s ancient rock-art churches and a whole lot more and instead emailed her publisher with the idea for this book.

Go Lightly, How to travel without hurting the planet, is full of tips to inspire readers to explore our beautiful planet as lightly as possible. As well as sharing how to choose the least impactful ways to travel Nina shares tips on how to protect wildlife and bring more mindful practices into your daily travel life.

Go Lightly features interviews with Conscious Travel Heroes including conservationist and filmmaker Céline Cousteau and photographer Jimmy Nelson, and is illustrated by Vietnamese illustrator Xuan Loc Xuan.

You can help support local book shops by picking up a copy in person (if they don’t already have it on the shelves just ask and they’ll be able to order it in), or if you’d like to buy one right now you can find Go Lightly on Booktopia here.  

AllTrails Pro

For the hiker, mountain biker, rock climber, snowshoer, or city roamer in your life, an AllTrails Pro subscription is the gift of a whole lot of trails and tracks to explore around the world.

AllTrails has more than 200,000 trails and walks to do, with around 9,500 in Australia alone, including wild walks, national parks, and city walks with reviews and photos from other hikers and campers who came before you.

While the free version of AllTrails has all of the maps to get you going, the Pro version has some great extra features including map overlays with live weather, air quality, light pollution and pollen data.

When you go Pro you also have access to offline maps so you can use GPS to navigate even when you can’t get any phone service. The Pro version also has a great safety feature called Lifeline, which allows you to share the details of your trail with friends and family.

With Lifeline you can make anyone a safety contact. They don’t need to be on AllTrails too, as long as you know their email or phone number you can share the trail you’ll be going on, your planned starting time and date, as well as updates from the trail.

And if you don’t finish your trail by your scheduled end time Lifeline will send an alert to your safety contacts along with your last known coordinates.

Another member of 1% for the planet, AllTrails has gift cards to share by email or to print and deliver, with a one-year subscription for $29.99, or three years for $59.99.

A handy travel water purifier

I’m a big fan of drinking tap water whenever I can on my travels, but unfortunately there are some places where I worry about hidden nasties that could potentially ruin the trip.

Whether you don’t trust the water that’s coming out of the tap in your hotel or want to go hiking and drink water from a lake, there are ways to filter out the bad guys.

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When used correctly portable UV filters like a Steripen can kill 99.99% of bacteria and viruses, or you can buy water bottles like Grayl that have built in purifiers.

Before you start firing up the filters find out if the tap water is a worry in the first place. In some places the water being sold in those plastic bottles is exactly the same as the stuff coming out of the tap, so you can save the filters for when you actually need them.

Go Green with BYO Toiletries

If you spend a lot of time in hotels you may have noticed a welcome change in the bathroom. Those tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel are on the way out, and refillable dispensers are on the way in.

As I explained in a story I wrote for The Points Guy two of the world’s biggest hotel groups, InterContinental Hotels (IHG) and Marriott International have announced they’ll completely phase out single use toiletry bottles.

Read: Travel gift ideas for every budget

Sadly single use bottles are rarely recycled and so end up in landfill, and considering Marriott’s new program alone will save around 500 million single used bottles a year that’s awesome news.

That said it’s going to take a while before every hotel makes the switch, and until that happens we can do our bit to reduce waste by filling up travel size containers from larger, recyclable plastic shampoo and conditioner at home.

You can get plain, clear ones, or opt for something like this cute and colourful set of refillable and carry on size approved containers.

Before wrapping it up and giving it to your friend, you can also fill up the bottles with a product you love to get them off to a good start.

Get in an eco friendly lather

Another way to reduce the amount of plastic you use, as well as lighten the load in your suitcase, is to carry solid shampoo and conditioner bars rather than travel with liquids.

Eco friendly shampoo bar by Ethique

You can also find loads of shampoo and conditioner bars on the Biome Store including cute heart shaped minis by Ethique, Tasmania Real Beer and Honey shampoo bars by Beauty and the Bees and a Lilly Pilly solid shampoo by Dindi Naturals in a little travel container.

And speaking of travel containers, a little thing that sends me crazy in hotels is when people open a bar of soap, use it for the one night they’re there, and then leave it to be thrown away.

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Some hotels do try to recycle them, but most don’t so it’s such a waste. And sometimes the products that are being so casually discarded are really lovely too.

In the past I’ve used a plastic zip lock bag to put the soap in so it can travel around the world with me, being used until it’s on it’s very last, slinky legs. At one point I started keeping track of how many soaps I’d saved by recycling a single bar but when it got into the dozens and that hunk of soap was still going strong I stopped counting.

A soap travel bag is a cute eco friendly gift

To make the whole travelling with soap thing a whole lot cuter, you can get waterproof cotton soap saving eco bags, including these ones that are handmade in Italy and come with a slice of olive oil Mediterranean soap to get you started. Because the bags allow the soap to breathe you can pop it in while it’s still wet and enjoy a sweet smelling suitcase as a little side bonus.

There are also soap dishes like this one that convert into a travel case when it’s time to hit the road. Or there are other handy containers out there like this sweet soap tin with a sloth. Yes, it’s definitely time for me to upgrade from my zip lock. 

Save soap with a travel soap container

Eco friendly bags

When it’s time for your friend to upgrade their luggage there are some great sustainable options to be found.

The Toronto based luggage company Heys has been making bags for more than 30 years and have a special eco friendly range called Eco Orbis where hard-case suitcases are made from 100% recycled post-industrial ABS plastic.

Heys Eco Orbis bags are a sustainable travel option

For soft case sustainability, Samsonite’s Eco Nu (also known as Eco Glide) cases are made out of 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles.

All of the fabric, right down to the lining, is made from water bottles, and I must admit I’m surprised how few bottles it takes to make a suitcase.

Read: Romantic gifts for your lover on Etsy

According to Samsonite an underseater case is made up of 24 recycled plastic bottles, while it takes 26 to make a carry-on, 43 to make a medium suitcase and 58 recycled plastic bottles to create a large Samsonite case. Which is pretty awesome.

For a Good Cause

And while it’s not technically in the travel zone, you might also like to consider making a donation in your friend’s name, or in the case of Kiva, setting up a small loan for them.

More than 1.7 billion people around the world don’t have access to a bank, and so have no way of taking out a loan to help with their home, their education, their health or to start a business. Kiva is an international non-profit that crowdfunds loans starting at just $25.

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If you give someone a Kiva Gift Card they can look through the website and loan the money to someone who inspires them. Then when the loan is paid back they can either take the money out or better yet, keep it in the system and loan it to someone else. 

Or you can also make a donation in your friend’s name to I Fund Women, a site dedicated to helping women’s businesses get off the ground. Some businesses even include a little gift from them to their donors so you can then give it to your friend when you share the news.

There are lots of other great charities out there that let you buy eco friendly gifts for a village, like a well through Oxfam Unwrapped or the training and tools for beekeepers through World Vision’s gift catalogue.

With so many incredible organisations out there doing their bit to help the planet it’s easy to find something special for that person (and planet) you love.

Sustainable Travel Gift Ideas Pin

If you liked this story and would like to share it on Pinterest, here’s a pin we prepared earlier, with thanks to Kilian M for the beautiful image.

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